Civil-military relationships constitute a crucial element in the transition to substantive democracy all over the world. During periods of authoritarianism or civil war, the military in Latin America has historically speaking been responsible for extensive violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Since the reintroduction of democracy in the region in the 1980s and 1990s, the military has gradually been brought back under civilian rule. The balance of power between military and civil political actors has shifted. But what is the relationship between the military and civilian governments today? Has the military regained its role as a protector of national borders, and lives a life isolated from the rest of society? Does it participate actively in combatting violence through the use of i.e. military police? Or does it continue to exercise violence against the citizens it is meant to protect?
Based on a review of the literature on civil-military relations in Latin America, this paper explores three main themes: (1) the military as a political actor; (2) the military as an economic actor; and (3) the military’s interaction with ordinary citizens.
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